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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Louis van Gaal: I'd prefer Man United to win FA Cup over Europa League

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal would prefer to win the FA Cup than the Europa League but accepts that European success is the club's best route into the Champions League.

Van Gaal returned United to the Champions League by finishing fourth in the Premier League last season, but they are currently fifth, six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City.

After dropping into the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League group, they take on FC Midtjylland on Thursday in the first leg of their round-of-32 clash.

Victory in the competition would see United qualify for next season's Champions League, but Van Gaal -- who is hoping to guide the club to their first major trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013 -- said his personal preference would be to lead them to a first FA Cup since 2004.

"My personal wish is to win the FA Cup. I have already won the UEFA Cup and I want to win a title in England," said Van Gaal, who won both the UEFA Cup and Champions League with Ajax in the 1990s. 

"That is why I have come to this country, to make Manchester United champions or give them a title [in England], but I understand -- for Manchester United it is much more important to win the Europa League because it will give us the Champions League.

"It is not only my best route, but ours I think."

However, there are several elite clubs in contention for the Europa League this season, including reigning champions Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Porto, Villarreal, Bayer Leverkusen and Premier League rivals Tottenham and Liverpool.

Van Gaal added: "I think it is also difficult to win [the Europa League] because there are also very good European teams in the League. We are with the last 32 teams, so we still need to win a lot of rounds.

"It's a way to get into the Champions League. It's a fantastic aim for us to win this cup because Manchester United have never won it."

Van Gaal warned that Danish champions Midtjylland will also provide a stern test of his team's credentials.

"We have to beat Midtjylland, who are a very good team," he said. "They play in a difficult shape for us. Sunderland showed it [in United's 2-1 defeat on Saturday] and Midtjylland play in the same shape, 4-1-4-1.

"They are specialised at set plays -- they have scored 48 percent of their goals from them -- so we'll try to organise for that but it's difficult. We hope we can do that but we mustn't give too many corners or free kicks away.

"We don't have tall players but we know that in advance. I cannot select other players now because of their height. We have a squad of 26 players and 13 are left, then the rest are out of the second team. I always have to select players on quality, not height, but it is a problem.

"The circumstances are also not so easy. I have seen that the pitch is smaller than usual so it is not so easy to beat Midtjylland here and a lot of teams have experienced that."

United will be without captain Wayne Rooney, who is reportedly facing around two months out with a knee injury, but Van Gaal said he does not regret allowing Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez to leave the club in the summer.

"Our policy is that we didn't want a big squad, because otherwise you can't try youngsters in your team, and normally you don't have so many injuries," he said.

Will Keane, recently returned from a loan spell at Preston, is expected to be given a bigger role in Rooney's absence.

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